Johnson, William Samuel, 1727–1819, American political leader and president of Columbia College (1787–1800), b. Stratford, Conn. A lawyer in Connecticut, he soon became a leading figure in the colony, serving as a member of the lower house and in the governor's council. Although conservative in his views, he was sent (1765) as a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress. From 1767 to 1771 he was an agent of Connecticut in England and after his return was a judge of the superior court (1772–73). Because of his opposition to political independence of the colonies, he declined to serve when elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774) and soon retired from politics. He was called from retirement to represent (1785–87) Connecticut in the Confederation Congress and at the U.S. Constitutional Convention (1787), in which he took a prominent part in the debate on represention. He served (1787–1800) as president of the newly reorganized Columbia College, formerly King's College, of which his father, Samuel Johnson (1696–1772), had been president. He was elected U.S. Senator from Connecticut in 1789, but retired in 1791.
See biographies by E. E. Beardsley (1876) and G. C. Groce, Jr. (1937).
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